Functional Skills for Schools

Functional Skills are part of the Key Stage 3 curriculum and revised programmes of study for Key Stage 4. Functional Skills are about the ability to select the right English, Maths or ICT skills to solve different problems. An example of being functional in maths would be the ability to understand a wage slip and being able to plan a journey using public transport.

So, the good news is that you are almost certainly already doing Functional Skills!

By looking at what you're teaching and making small tweaks you can create a really rich Functional Skills resource and cover other areas of the curriculum. Functional Skills makes what you're teaching more exciting and more relevant to your students. It's about more than just preparation for passing exams. Functional Skills is about teaching and reinforcing skills that will be used everyday. English, Maths and ICT are embedded in the learning activities.

We’ve got lots of idea to enthuse teachers of all subjects about Functional Skills. Here are a few to get you started.

  • Citizenship

    Here the ‘real-life’ aspect of Functional Skills really can come to life – especially for English. You could use a topical local issue as a context. For example, in Shrewsbury there is currently a local environmental campaign against the building of a large incinerator plant on the outskirts of town.

    You could take any context local to you and:

    • Discuss the issue (speaking and listening)
    • Find out all relevant viewpoints (reading/internet/book/newspaper research)
    • Consider solutions and any alternatives (discussion/problem solving)
    • Write a report or summary of the issue
    • Write a letter of concern or support to your local MP
  • Design and Technology

    Product design project: students work collaboratively in teams to come up with a design concept to be taken through to costing stage. This task could include all three Functional Skills.

  • Geography

    Sustainable development investigations. Students could use sustainable development as a theme that could use all three Functional Skills. This topic covers a large proportion of the Geography Programme of Study at KS3. Use Geography related news topics as a theme – the Citizenship topic above could also be adapted for use in Geography, for example.

  • History

    • Functional ICT – choose a suitable historical context for investigation via websites (census data, digitised artefacts and other records). Use the information discovered to write a short report on the topic.
    • Functional English – history is document rich and therefore a great source of material for Functional English. Your students could investigate aspects of history and detect point of view/bias/inference in historical data. They could find suitable resources to write a report on a given topic.
  • PE

    By its nature PE helps students develop as individuals and teams. You could use the context of a sports match to allocate different roles. Some students could be scorers/timekeepers. Others could be coaches and analysts – recording the number and type of passes, goals, fouls and so on. If you are able, you could record a game and get students to provide match commentary (alternatively use a recording without sound). Students could write match reports or a sports newsletter.

  • PSHE

    PSHE is rich in possibilities for developing Functional Skills – the list could be endless. Here are just a few ideas:

    • Use the internet and other source materials to investigate the effects of specific drugs. Mephedrone would be a good example – students could find out its effects, its legal status and any specific press stories to write a report.
    • Similarly for alcohol, students could investigate drink driving and use functional maths skills to examine statistics to compile a report.
    • Find out about the types of bank accounts available for 16-year-olds and choose the best option for different people’s circumstances.
    • Choose a particular job and find out the qualifications, skills and aptitudes required for it. Investigate ways students could gain these skills or experience relevant to support an application.
  • Science

    Your students will use functional English skills when they join in discussions and when they write up the results of investigations. They are likely to also use maths skills of reasoning and analysis to explain the outcome of investigations and could use ICT skills to present their findings. Watch out for some very specific suggestions for science coming soon.